City to train SI hair stylists to detect signs of domestic abuse

A new city program targeting domestic violence on Staten Island seeks to capitalize on women’s relationships with their hair stylists.

Salon professionals who volunteer will receive information on available resources and free training on how to detect signs of domestic abuse in customers, District Attorney Michael E. McMahon’s office said. 

“Intimate partner violence is a tragic reality for too many women on Staten Island,” McMahon said in an emailed statement on Monday.

There was a 12.73 percent spike in domestic abuse reports on Staten Island in 2016 when compared with the previous year, according to an annual report released by the Office to Combat Domestic Violence (OCDV), which partnered with McMahon's office to launch the program. Homicides between intimate partners rose from one in 2015 to six in 2016.

“Salon workers have a unique relationship with their customers, and can offer a safe space for them to confide in a trusted source,” McMahon said. “When equipped with the proper training to recognize signs of abuse, salon workers can empower victims to find the help they need but may be too scared to seek on their own.”

In June 2016, the city opened its first Family Justice Center in the borough, a space that is designed to “ensure every victim and survivor of domestic violence, elder abuse and sex trafficking is able to seek assistance, safety and legal services near home,” OCDV said in a press release.

More than 2,287 clients have visited the Family Justice Center, located at 126 Stuyvesant Place, since its establishment, according to an OCDV annual report.

“Survivors often look to their community for help,” OCDV Commissioner Cecile Noel said. “Providing them [salon professionals] with information about resources and assistance is an important step forward in our efforts to ensure that survivors have more allies in their lives.”

An inaugural two-hour training session will be held at the Staten Island Family Justice Center on Oct. 23.

The program comes on the heels of a state bill, introduced in March and sponsored by Assemb. Linda Rosenthal, that would require professionals in the cosmetology industry to undergo an hour-long training session to help them detect signs of domestic abuse as part of their license renewal process.

Across New York State, there was a 22 percent increase in intimate partner homicides in 2016 and a 15.6 percent increase in Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline calls, according to reports released by the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.

“For many, the relationship with their hairstylist is one of trust,” Assemb. Rosenthal said in an email statement. “We know that these conversations are already happening, so it's crucial, when time is of the essence and lives are on the line, that stylists be able to connect victims with community resources that could quite literally save their lives.”

Rosenthal's bill is awaiting consideration from the Committee on Economic Development.


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